Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gravity pulls!

Before the ink on my last blog dried, I received a new suggestion for a superior selection of a choice spot for "the mother of all free falls:" the Glass Bridge, also known as the Skywalk. This is supposed to be on a site within the US' Grand Canyon, looking down on the Colorado river.

To be fair, know that this is a new project under construction that has suffered some setbacks and it is slated for a grand opening toward the end of the year 2006. Mark your calendar and get your airline ticket if you want to be the first in line for a spungy jump. However, remember that the pictures you see below are "artist's rendering" of a "soon to be built" structure. Let's hope they do not run out of cash in the middle of the construction that is taking place right at this moment.

Of course, I cannot let this candidate off the list I already cited in my previous blog, so here it is:

You can see in the insert that a jump from this beauty easily dwarfs all that from the top of all the known skyscrapers of the world. To scale, the US' Empire State Building on the left is seen with its puny 1,252 feet. To the right is the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, towering at a mere 1,671 feet. But look at this:

Do you see the tiny Colorado river below? You think you can hit it? Or will you miss it? Did you consider wind shear? Now, a new calculation is in order. It will take you a LONG, LONG, LONG 15.6 second to cover the whopping 4,000 feet of height. By the time you reach your destination, you should be traveling at the speed of 350 miles per hour. Thankfully, we are on earth, and the precious air we use to breathe slows you down to about a mere 130 miles per hour or so, depending on your weight and a few other physical constants contained in the consideration paid to what physics calls "terminal velocity." That hurts!

Do you know what I think? This structure is catered for insane people! It has a glass bottom, sticks out 70 feet into nothingness, you have to pay to be scared to death stepping on the glass bottom cantilever with no cable support from above or beam support from below. Make sure you do not wear your hat on a windy day and hang on dearly to the glass side rail!

A positive final departing note: I am sure that the mere fact of taking one step out on this structure and look down once will be enough to erase all dark thoughts from your mind. Suddenly, you will think that life is so beautiful and please, please, please, let me get back to the safety of the rock side. What was I thinking?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

M*A*S*H 1977

The final splash!

I do not really know why people get more depressed at the approach of holidays in the US. I am not even sure if this is true worldwide, and would be amazed if that is so. In any case, so called US experts would assert they know all the reasons behind this perceived trend which they name SAD for "seasonal affective disorder." Very appropriately, a documentary movie is recently released named "The Bridge." This documentary film deals with the most popular suicide destination in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA. After learning about this film, my memory flashes back several decades to my youth from which I can recall vividly one question I had to which I did not readily have answers at that time. I know I can dive from a diving platform into a swimming pool. The question was: can I dive into an ocean from a very high altitude (like jumping off an airplane) to gracefully split the water to win a gold medal as the world's best Olympic diver? According to "The Bridge:" No! Over my dead body! Actually, that's what the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge is famous for: that's how you commit suicide, jump off that bridge.

You see, it's all in the physics of how things go in this universe. Curiously, it involves the second law of thermodynamics and Shakespear, but I am in a mellow mood now and will spare you that highly philosophical tirade. Let's talk low order physics:

From the bridge escarpment, you are about 250 feet above the ocean surface below. From elementary Newton's calculation, it takes you a mere 4 seconds to free fall and reach the water with a velocity of about 90 miles per hour. On reaching the surface of the water, unfortunately, you carry with you a lot of baggage: your kinetic energy! By the law of conservation of energy and momentum etc... regardless of how your body meets the water molecules, this energy is converted to other forms such as heat and forces that want to interact with every molecules of your body, some of which are your skull, your femur, fibula, tibia, humerus, radius, ulna, clavical etc...

Although your bones are hard as steel, they are no match! There are fascinating engineering studies of how the 206 bones in a human boby break under the stress of stretching, compression, torsion etc... the bottom line is, under appropriate stress, they all break. At 90 miles per hour impacting the water molecules, many of the bones will break, leaving the internal organs exposed to the environment. The bottom line is

“jumps from higher than . . . 250 feet over water are almost always fatal.”

"Jumpers who hit the water do so with a force of about fifteen thousand pounds per square inch. Eighty-five per cent of them suffer broken ribs, which rip inward and tear through the spleen, the lungs, and the heart. Vertebrae snap, and the liver often ruptures."

The final splash!

Interestingly, it is not always fatal because some suiciders have second thought during that 4 seconds so they chose to go feet first and their skull may remain intact. With some cooperation from lady luck, they can survive to tell.

Below are two very interesting graphical representations of studies related to "The Bridge:"

The first one shows the distribution of the locations from which suiciders jumped off. They like the location of light pole numbered 69, facing the East side of the bridge, and at about mid-span.

The final splash!

The second graph shows the distribution of suiciders over the years since the bridge was first constructed in 1937. 1977 had the highest number of 40 persons jumping off the bridge. It is not clear how many survived, not too many.

The final splash!

And you know what? Take a look at that year, 1977, one of the most popular television shows was: "M*A*S*H" whose theme song was by Mike Altman and Johnny Mandel. Its title? "Suicide is Painless."

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be,
The pains that are withheld for me,
I realize and I can see...

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

The game of life is hard to play,
I'm going to loose it anyway,
The loosin' card I'll someday lay;
So this is all I have to say...

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
And to another give my seat
For that's the only painless feat.

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
And you can do the same thing if you please.

Copyright (C) 1970 by Twentieth Century-Fox Music Corporation,
8544 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069
Twentieth Century-Fox Music Corp. Ltd., London W1, England
International Copyright Secured
Made in U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved

Not so, according to my analysis and recorded facts at "The Bridge."

Let's see, if things do not go so well, where else can one go? To start... The Empire State Building (102 floors, 1252 feet, 381 meters high,) the Duomo, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sydney Harbor Bridge and the eternal city of light with its Eiffel Tower! I am sure you do not want to see my analysis of how the Young Modulus of bones behave when bones hit the concrete.

Cheers! Don't be so gloomy, please!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I am afraid, really really afraid...

Everytime I have the yen for a juicy barbeque steak (is this spelled right? barbeque??? need to check it out...) and prefer to have it done myself rather than to go to an expensive restaurant, I am faced with a mortal fear. So, today, I decide to get to the root of this mental block that has plagued me for as long as I can remember. Then, I need to look for a cure!

First order of business, scientifically speaking, is to analyze the situation and discover the roots of this problem. Roots? Looks like I need to dig!

Starting with just the letter "A," I can already think of at least 60 reasons contributing to my consternation, too numerous to tell you about all of them. Systematically though, I want to gather and list some of the possible causes that may contribute to my anguish:

Agliophobia or Algophobia are definitely suspect. And please, please, please, please do not confuse these with Agraphobia or Contreltophobia.

Now, Agrizoophobia is definitely in the hunt... although Aichmophobia comes close to being a possible candidate.

How about Amychophobia? Hhmmm, possible, possible!

Definitely, I need to consider Aphenphosmphobia but Apiphobia may be unfounded!

Are you ready to proceed to the letter "Z?"

Batrachophobia, Belonephobia, Blennophobia, Bufonophobia. Chiraptophobia, Cnidophobia (definitely, brrrr... this really, really scares me!)

Not to forget Doraphobia!

Enetophobia, Entomophobia, Haphephobia, Helminthophobia, Herpetophobia, Homichlophobia, Melissophobia, Microphobia, Molysmophobia, Mottephobia, Musophobia, Myrmecophobia, Myxophobia, Nosophobia, Odynophobia, especially Ophidiophobia!!!

Panthophobia, Parasitophobia, Pathophobia, Pediculophobia, Phobophobia, Phthiriophobia, Ranidaphobia, Scoleciphobia, Spermatophobia, Spheksophobia, Stenophobia, Suriphobia, Taeniophobia, Traumatophobia, Trypanophobia, Verminophobia
and finally, I know we eventually come to it... Zemmiphobia.

If you have not been able to figure out thus far what I am talking about beside the nebulous "obias," take a look at what I need to do! This is serious, and I am not talking about cleaning the cooking utensil! That's the easy part!

Who's lurking in here?

Once in a blue moon, I do get the urge to fire up my trusted 2 person BBQ and have a memorable cookout. I have all the tools and supplies conveniently tucked away inside my patio so it is a simple matter to start the process. However, to start, I need to get the charcoal out of the bag! This bag may have lingered outdoor for many moons and God only knows what may have transpired since it was last touched by a human. Now, how one would do this? What are the risks one encounters venturing one's hand inside this dark and forbidden space to retrieve the brickets? You know what I mean? What creature may be ambushing in there ready to strike without warning?

After seriously twisting my poor brain, here are a few possible cures, none of which I think will work:

1. Dump content by emptying into BBQ pit
2. Use long tongs to retrieve carbon brickets, one by one?
3. Use thick and heavy protecting gloves
4. Use transparent bag to contain charcoal.

It's a tough problem. 1 no doubt will give me a fit of C6FallingAllOverThePlacePhobia, 2 will trigger YouVeGotThreeOf42BricketAreWeThereYetPhobia, 3 WhereAreMyFingersThisWontWorkPhobia and 4 ItsAllBlackUCantSeeThruPhobia. Nah! I told you, none shall work!

I'll keep the status quo to enjoy the heart pounding adventures everytime I poke my hand in this unknown black hole. To be sure, I won't use my right hand. Wait a minute! I need to make sure I am not sinistral or southpaw, in which case I need to "not to use my left hand." One can never be too careful. Life is so stressful!